Review by midwinter

"Ride Into The Danger Zone"

There was something in the water on the 10th of October, 2003... or maybe the gods were smiling and the planets were in alignment. No matter the reason, something very special happened on that day as it went totally without precedent. Japanese software publisher Bandai had chosen that day to release not one, but two games based on a popular anime license. That in itself was not unusual. What stood out about this was the fact that both games were, for want of a better word, excellent. Both this game, Choujikuu Yousai Macross and the other, Naruto: Narutimate Hero broke new ground for licensed games the world over as they delivered enjoyable gaming experiences that simply oozed both quality and technique. At first glance, Choujikuu Yousai Macross looked to follow the standard air combat formula with it's fast paced aerial dog fights and mission based gameplay. As fans of the series knew however, there was to be much more than that lurking under the surface...

Based on the 1982 released TV series of the same name, Choujikuu Yousai Macross is an epic story that tells of an alien invasion of Earth. What made it unique for it's time was it's heady mix of intense human drama and heavy metal space combat. In fact, one could argue that the real draw of the series was not the story (which was great anyway!), but the impressively designed mecha. Initially the Valkyrie fighters employed by Earth looked like regular combat aircraft, but they were also capable of transforming into 2 other attack configurations, the Gerwalk and the Battroid. While the Battroid configuration was humanoid in shape, the Gerwalk was a hybrid amalgamation of the regular figher design and the Battroid configuration... imagine the legs and arms of a humanoid and the body of a fighter aircraft and you will be close to understanding what it looked like. Each of the 3 different configurations was expertly designed and complimented virtually every combat situation encountered through out the course of the series.

Developed for Bandai by Sega's AM2 division, CYM has it's roots firmly planted in the arcade. Taking control of a Valkyrie fighter, the player must engage swarms of attacking enemy craft in glorious 3d while completing each of the mission objectives. These objectives run the gauntlet from the standard attack and eliminate style of mission to escort and defense duties. It's not particularly original, but then that is more of a fault with the genre than of the game itself. What is original though is the previously stated abilities of the Valkyrie fighter. At anytime through out the course of a mission, the player may change it's configuration in order to better deal with the enemy attacks. Are the enemy attacks too close for your missiles to be effective? Then change into the Battroid configuration and take them on in close quarter combat with your machine gun! Or perhaps you would like to retain the speed and maneuverability of the fighter mode? Then try the Gerwalk configuration as it offers a finely balanced mix of the 2. Proper usage of each of these 3 modes is essential to the successful completion of each mission. It is possible to play an entire mission in one mode, but by doing so you will only be making the game harder than it needs to be. CYM's 3d shooting action is fast and furious and is reminiscent of some the best games this genre has to offer.

With 3 different attack modes comes 3 different control set ups. It's lucky for us then that AM2 are masters of their field and have implemented a control scheme for each configuration that is both different and familiar at the same time. It may take a little getting used to at first, but I guarantee that within minutes the player will have each configuration mastered and will have the confidence to take to the skies. I couldn't notice any discernable difference in the way each of the different Valkyrie handled but they were always smoothly responsive to my commands. Many of the Macross games in the past have failed to live up to expectations due to an overly complex control scheme, so kudos must be given to Sega for making something so confusing seem so simple.

Putting the outstanding Valkyrie fighters aside for one minute, one of the greatest things about the Macross series has always been it's space battles. Epic in size, spectacular in nature, they would seem to be next to impossible to pull off in the guise of a game... or so one would think. With the use of an outstanding graphics engine, AM2 have done a fantastic job in presenting the gamer with a believable Macross style environment. Even though a lot of the battles take place in outer space, the battlefields are always filled with detail. Explosions occur off on the horizon as you barrel role past an asteroid while dodging an incoming swarm of missiles before choking the airbrakes to bring your Valkyrie into position to open fire on a wave of Zentradi fighters... WOW! The graphics are crisp and clean, and rarely ever suffer from slowdown. There was only one instance of slowdown that I can recall, but at the time I was weaving between 4 capital ships while doing battle with numerous smaller fighters, so it was easily forgivable given the situation. Fans of the series will also be delighted to know that the trademark Macross homing missile swarms have been faithfully reproduced and are a joy to unleash upon the enemy. Who needs machine guns anyway?

What is the first thing you think of when someone mentions the sound of Macross? If you answered music then you would be spot on. Macross the TV series was famous for it's use of Japanese pop music, and though it's 80's melodies sound corny by today's standards, they still work well within the confines of the game. The same can be said for the background music tracks that accompany the player into battle, most of which will be recognizable by longtime fans of the series. Many of CYM's sound effects have also been borrowed from the TV series and are as they should be, meaty and satisfying. The liberal use of bass in the explosions really empowers the player and sets the mood for the carnage that follows. Crank it up and let the windows shake people, this is what complaint calls to the police were made for!

Sadly, as good as the gameplay gets, CYM is a very short game! Each of the 2 scenarios on offer shouldn't take any longer than 2 hours a piece to complete, and even that's factoring in repeated attempts to complete a mission. There are some tricky moments, but any gamer worth their salt will have no problems completing this game in a single sitting. Re-playability comes in the guise of the hidden Valkyrie designs that can be unlocked upon completing a mission with a S ranking. This is where the challenge lies ladies and gentlemen as on the first run through, the average gamer will be lucky to achieve a handful of A's or B's, let alone the elite ranking of S. It may seem impossible sometimes, but hang in there and you will be rewarded...

Yes, Choujikuu Yousai Macross is the game that fans have been waiting all these years for. With this one release, Bandai and AM2 have managed to wipe the proverbial slate clean and have earned themselves forgiveness for the countless other travesties that have been dropped on the unprepared Macross loving gamer in the past. It may be short and the missions may be generic, but the action is what we are here for and that has been delivered in full. Choujikuu Yousai Macross is more than a game for the fans, this is one for everyone to enjoy! Do yourself a favor and check it out now...

Pros
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* Gameplay is exciting and innovative
* 3 different attack modes
* Controls are responsive and easy to use
* Outstanding graphics
* The trademark missile swarms look great!
* The soundtrack captures the feel of the original series
* Follows the story seen in the TV series and movie
* Many different Valkyrie to unlock

Cons
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* Standard mix of mission objectives
* Woefully short


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 11/04/03


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